According to the Centre for Workforce Intelligence, the British National Health Service (NHS) will face a chronic shortfall of nurses by 2016. The Foundation Trusts have repeatedly squeezed their budgets to keep the accountants happy, which many health care professionals believe is severely impacting on patient care and other crucial services. And while budgets are being cut in these areas, it appears increasing amounts of money are being spent on agency and temporary nursing staff, which has been put down to very inefficient planning.
A poll of 1600 British nurses carried out by a leading recruitment agency found that only one in seven was happy in their job and that half would leave if they could. And with countries such as Dubai and Australia offering attractive packages for British nurses, it’s not surprising that many are moving abroad.
What’s the Solution?
Until October 2014, particularly for nurses outside the EU, applying to come and work in the UK was a bureaucratic nightmare. There were so many hurdles that many well-qualified nurses gave up. Now it’s a much simpler process, whereby an applicant first takes an on-line competency test from his/her own country (multiple choice, theoretical, practice-based knowledge), and having passed that and submitted various documentation for assessment, they then undergo an objective-structured clinical examination in the UK, to assess clinical knowledge.
The period of supervised practise has been cut altogether, although every non-EU applicant, regardless of whether English is their first language, will have to pass an English proficiency test. It’s interesting to note that while Australians and American nurses must prove their proficiency in English, applicants from the EU do not, which has angered some politicians and NHS officials. It was reported that one NHS nurse was sent on an English language course as they didn’t understand the term ‘nil by mouth’. It’s very puzzling how and why this EU directive was ever passed.
With the application process simplified, it’s hoped that more overseas nurses will come and work for the NHS. And as more stringent checks are required for non-EU applicants, this may have an effect on how countries are ranked.
Help and Advice
To assess whether applicants have the necessary theoretical and practical experience to pass the nursing exams, they should seek help from a reputable nursing agency, who will have advisers to take them through the process. And of course they’ll also be able to point them in the direction of suitable RGN jobs.
Regardless of public opinion on recruiting NHS nurses from overseas, until the powers that be get their acts together, it is the only available option to curb the shortfall.